Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996 Page: 74
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
attempted to implement Wright's escape. On August 22, Smith, who claimed that the entire
idea was Lyle's and that he had never agreed to help, was convicted and sentenced to six
months in jail and a $100 fine. Lyle, though indicted, was never tried. Curiously, Smith
was sent off to Fayette County to serve his sentence, because, the court declared, there was
no jail in Colorado County.20
Undoubtedly, this turn of events must have been perplexing to Smith, who after
all had just been convicted of attempting to break someone out of the now officially non-
existent jail. Presumably, the jail that Hudgeons had built was, in effect, repossessed when
Dewees and his partners refused to pay for it. Certainly the county got no use out of it, for
just two years later, on October 13, 1840, with Hudgeons' lawsuit dragging on, the county
decided to build its own jail, and, for good measure, a courthouse. Since April 14, 1840,
the county government had met and kept its records in a building they rented from Dewees,
a building which, at least by 1841, also contained a pool hall. Neither the new courthouse
nor the new jail, however, were built. The commissioners finally cancelled the courthouse
contract on April 11, 1842. The same day, they rented two buildings on the east side of the
courthouse square to use as offices and courtrooms, finally abandoning the pool hall, which
must have been a temptation to even the most devoted officeholder.21
Commercial navigation of the Colorado River had been discussed since at least
1829. Efforts to navigate the river had been frustrated, however, by its seasonally varying
depths, by nearby overhanging trees, and by the presence of an imposing natural
obstruction known as the "raft" a few miles from the coast. The raft was a collection of trees
and other debris that had been swept down the river over the centuries by its periodic floods.
On April 25, 1835, the State of Coahuila and Texas had given Benjamin Rush Milam the
exclusive right to navigate the Colorado with steamboats for ten years, provided that he
remove the raft and make the river navigable from the coast to Mina. Milam never
completed the task. He spent much of the remainder of his soon-to-be-concluded life
embroiled in revolutionary activities, activities which led to his death in San Antonio on
December 7, 1835. Two years after Milam's death, certain that their economic prosperity
would be assured by doing so, the settlers on the Colorado resolved to remove the raft. On
December 14, 1837, the Congress of the Republic of Texas chartered the Colorado
Navigation Company, charging it with making the river navigable for fifty miles from the
coast, but stipulating that it must begin work within nine months and complete its task within
four years. The charter and an amendment to it passed thirteen days later also allowed the
company, after it had completed its project, to charge tolls, the amounts of which could only
20 Colorado County District Court Records, Criminal Cause File No. 14: Republic of Texas v. John
Lyle; Criminal Cause File No. 18: Republic of Texas v. John F. Smith; Minute Book A & B, pp. 10-11.
21 Colorado County Commissioners Court Minutes, Book A, pp. 17, 27, 29, 36, 64.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996, periodical, May 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151397/m1/14/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.